Detection, Mitigation and Prevention

Beacon was developed in order to give anyone managing digital marketing campaigns better insight into the success of their campaigns, including to be able to determine how much traffic was from non-human sources, more commonly known as bots.

Much of the non-human activity is fraudulent, run by criminal organisations who funnel the proceeds into organised crime, including money laundering, human trafficking and drugs. Reducing the income available to these organisations by substantially cutting down malicious non-human transactions will have clear positive financial and societal impacts.

Growth in digital transactions over the last couple of decades has led to a significant growth in cybercrime. A recent study by the University of Baltimore, notes that “Globally, approximately $144 Billion is spent on paid search and paid social campaigns, not least as brands reallocate parts of their trade marketing budgets from bricks and mortar retail to product search on ecommerce platforms.

Search Engine Watch reported in February 2019, “£5.8bn was lost to click fraud between 2016 and 2018”. [1]

The Drum in June 2019 quoted that “the direct cost [of click fraud] to advertisers to hit $26bn in 2020, $29bn in 2021, and $32bn in 2022” noting that “This burden lands disproportionately on the shoulders of small firms that don’t have as much money as established brands to avoid ad fraud”. [2]

  1. https://www.searchenginewatch.com/2019/02/14/how-google-ads-fighting-click-fraud/
  2. https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/06/06/cost-global-ad-fraud-could-top-30bn 

The Beacon Approach

We know that bots are a contributory factor to lower-than-desired ROI on digital marketing campaigns and our focus is on the identification of valid human traffic by detecting bots, blocking them where feasible and providing the insight you need to mitigate against the worst sources of fraudulent traffic, whether by channel, phrasing, time of day or whatever factors impact you most.

By doing so, and increasing the percentage of the human visitors from your ad spend and decreasing wastage on non-converting bots, our clients see more effective campaigns with greater levels of ROI, revenue and profit.

Beacon is truly cross platform, detecting invalid clicks across all major paid search and paid social buying channels (including Google Search Ads, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap, and more) as well as ‘free to post’ activity and programmatic/display advertising.

Our 3-step Approach is as Follows

1
Detection

Ad-verification and click fraud prevention platforms typically rely on a limited number of indicators and potentially out of date “blacklist” IP lists, when analysing for user authenticity. Beacon uses Digital Journey Tracking to collate all visitor actions and use this data for individual visitor behavioural and network analysis, as well as looking at dozens of parameters to perform advanced OS / device fingerprinting.

2
Prevention

When a bot is detected we record the device fingerprint (IP and browser signature), and add the bot into our current bot database for your website. This database is used to block campaign traffic to your website from known bots and keep a record of which bots are blocked.

We maintain a separate bot database for each client website as it is important to keep the database up to date and fresh; bots can change IP and browser signatures over time to help them evade detection, so we only consider a bot fingerprint valid for 3-weeks from the time of last detection, preventing us over-blocking.

3
Mitigation

By revealing which channels and individual paid links result in the greatest percentage of bots, Beacon provides the insight you need to be able to mitigate against the worst sources of fraudulent traffic, modifying your strategy to reduce your exposure to them, whether by channel, phrasing, time of day or whatever factors impact you most.

Beacon: Future-proofing You

Existing bot detection suites, Beacon included, use a mix of methods to determine whether a digital transaction is a bot. Current tools work after-the-event; the bot has to strike first before it can be detected and the subsequent mitigation promulgated, however, bot networks are highly sophisticated and run counter-detection measures making this process difficult to maintain in to the future, leading to a never-ending war of attrition with the bad actors always being ahead.

Beacon is very active in R&D to stay ahead of this curve. In a recent UK Government InnovateUK project we proved the commercial and technical feasibility of how combining three innovative technologies – Artificial Intelligence, Digital Journey Mapping and Blockchain – can bring a step-change to the market and significantly reduce online fraud from non-human actors, a project we are developing further in conjunction with UC Davis in California and the University of Huddersfield in the UK during 2020-21 to allow Beacon to continue to future-proof your digital campaigns.

Beacon Infrastructure

The following diagram illustrates the Beacon journey tracking infrastructure used for both bot detection and for providing campaign intelligence.

A guide to bots; detection, mitigation and prevention diagram